Burma election laws put Suu Kyi in bind

Human Rights watch has slammed a new Burmese law preventing anyone serving a prison term from running for office, including opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi.

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The law, printed for the first time in state newspapers, has been widely condemned outside Burma as a new attempt to exclude Suu Kyi and members of her National League for Democracy (NLD) from running in elections this year.

New York-based Human Rights Watch said the law would effectively exclude over 2,100 political activists and some 429 members of the NLD believed to be imprisoned in Burma.

New law ‘sadly predictable’

“The new law’s assault on opposition parties is sadly predictable,” Human Rights Watch Asia director, Brad Adams, said in a statement.

“It continues the sham political process that is aimed at creating the appearance of civilian rule with a military spine.”

The new Political Parties Registration Act also gives the NLD just 60 days from Monday, when the law was enacted, to register as a party if it wants to take part in the elections, or else face dissolution.

A hit for democracy

“The Burmese government is demonstrating contempt for the democratic process, the people of Burma, and international opinion, including its friends in China, India, and ASEAN, who have asked for an inclusive political process,” Adams said.

The NLD has yet to announce whether it will take part in the polls promised by the junta, which are expected in October or November although the government has still not set a date.

Suu Kyi, 64, has been in detention for 14 of the last 20 years since the previous elections.

She was already barred from standing as a candidate under a new constitution approved in a 2008 referendum that stipulates that those married to foreigners are ineligible.

Her husband, British academic Michael Aris, died in 1999.

The Nobel Peace laureate was sentenced to three years in prison last August over an incident in which a US man swam to her lakeside home.

Suu Kyi’s sentence was commuted by junta leader Than Shwe to 18 months under house arrest.